History doctoral student Samuel Clowes Huneke analyzed several police files from the 1940s that illuminate the limited toleration some lesbians found during the Nazi regime.
Lesbians may have enjoyed limited toleration during the Nazi regime in Germany, according to new Stanford research.
Samuel Clowes Huneke, a doctoral candidate in history, examined police investigation files from the 1940s involving alleged violations of same-sex relations laws. His findings and analysis were recently published in the Journal of Contemporary History.
“These files add a new level of nuance to existing scholarship,” Huneke said. “They hint at a more normal existence that was the daily experience of some lesbians in the Third Reich.”
Moreover, Huneke said, “the experiences of lesbians in Nazi Germany can help shed light not only on how gender operates in multivalent ways, but also the complex negotiation of both repression and toleration on which authoritarian regimes depend.”
Lack of evidence
The systematic persecution of gay men under the Nazi regime has been well documented by historians. The regime’s laws explicitly criminalized homosexual acts between men. About 50,000 men were convicted for being homosexuals and between 5,000 and 15,000 were imprisoned in concentration camps, where up to 60 percent of them died, according to scholars.
But how lesbians fared is less clear. Females were excluded from the law that made homosexual acts illegal. Aside from a few cases that have been uncovered by a handful of scholars in the United States and Germany, little documentation exists describing how the Nazis treated lesbians.